Lucy Sullivan Getting Married - Extract

When Meredia reminded me that the four of us from the office were due to visit a fortune-teller the following day, my stomach lurched.

"You've forgotten," accused Meredia, her chubby face aquiver.

I had.

She slapped her hand down on her desk and warned, "Don't even think of trying to tell me that you're not coming."

"Damn," I whispered, because that was just what I had been about to do. Not because I had any objections to having my fortune told. On the contrary -- it was usually good for a laugh. Especially when they got to the part where they told me that the man of my dreams was just around the next comer. That part was always hilarious.

Even I laughed.

But I was poor. Although I had just been paid, my bank account was a post-holocaust, corpse-strewn wasteland because the day I'd been paid, I'd spent a fortune on aromatherapy oils that had promised to rejuvenate and energize and uplift me.

And bankrupt me, except it didn't say that on the packaging. But I think the idea was that I'd be so rejuvenated and energized and uplifted that I wouldn't care.

So when Meredia reminded me that. I'd committed myself to paying some woman thirty pounds so that she could tell me that I would travel over water and that I was quite psychic myself, I realized that I'd be going without lunch for two weeks.

"I'm not sure that I can afford it," I said nervously.

"You can't back out now!" thundered Meredia. "Mrs. Nolan is giving us a discount. The rest of us will have to pay more if you don't come."

"Who's this Mrs. Nolan?" Megan asked suspiciously, looking up from her computer where she had been playingSolitaire. She was supposed to be running a check on debtors overdue a month.

"The tarot reader," said Meredia.

"What kind of name is Mrs. Nolan?" demanded Megan.

"She's Irish," protested Meredia.

"No!" Megan tossed her shiny, blond hair in annoyance. "I mean, what kind of name is 'Mrs. Nolan' for a psychic? She should be called Madam Zora or something like that. She can't be called 'Mrs. Nolan.' How can we believe a word that she says?"

"Well, that's her name." Meredia sounded hurt.

"And why didn't she change it?" said Megan. "There's nothing to it, so I'm told. Isn't that right, so-called Meredia?"

A pregnant pause.

"Or should I say 'Cathy'?" Megan continued with triumph.

"No, you shouldn't," said Meredia. "My name is Meredia."

"Sure," said Megan, with great sarcasm.

"It is!" said Meredia hotly.

"So let's see your birth certificate," challenged Megan.

Megan and Meredia didn't see eye to eye on most things and especially not on Meredia's name. Megan was a no-nonsense Australian with a low bullshit threshold. Since she had arrived three months ago as a temp, she had insisted that Meredia wasn't Meredia's real name. She was probablyright. Although I was very fond of Meredia, I had to agree that her name had a certain makeshift, ramshackle, cobbled-together-out-of-old-egg-cartons feel to it.

But unlike Megan I couldn't really see a problem with that.

"So it's definitely not 'Cathy'?" Megan took a little notebook out of her purse and drew a line through something.

"No," said Meredia stiffly.

"Right," said Megan. "That's all the Cs done. Time for the Ds. Daphne? Deirdre? Dolores? Denise? Diana? Dinah?"

"Shut up!" said Meredia, clearly on the verge of tears.

"Stop it." Hetty put a gentle hand on Megan's arm, because that's the kind of thing that Hetty did. Although Hetty was rich, she was also a good, kind person, who poured oil on troubled waters. Which meant, of course, that she wasn't much fun, but no one was perfect.

Immediately upon meeting Hetty, you could tell that Hetty came from old money -- mostly because she had horrible clothes. Even though she was only about thirty-five she wore awful tweed skirts and flowery dresses that looked like family heirlooms. She never bought new clothes, which was a shame because one of the chief ways that office workers bonded was by displaying the spoils of the post-payday shopping run.

"I wish that Aussie bitch would leave," Meredia muttered to Hetty.

"It probably won't be long now," Hetty said soothingly.

"When are you going to leave?" Meredia demanded of Megan.

"As soon as I've got the cash," Megan replied.

Megan was doing her grand tour of Europe and had temporarily run out of money. But as soon as she had enough money to go, she was going -- she constantly reminded us -- to Scandinavia or Greece or the Pyrenees or the west of Ireland.

Until then Hetty and I would have to break up the vicious fights that broke out regularly. Megan was tall and tanned and gorgeous, Meredia was short and fat and not gorgeous. Meredia was jealous of Megan's beauty, while Megan despised Meredia's excess weight. When Meredia couldn't buy clothes to fit her, instead of making sympathetic noises like the rest of us did, Megan barked, "Stop whining and go on a bloody diet!"

But Meredia never did. And in the meantime she was condemned to cause cars to swerve whenever she walked down the road. Because instead of trying to disguise her size with vertical stripes and dark colors, she seemed to dress to enhance it. She went for the layered look, layers and layers and layers of fabric. Really, lots. Acres of fabric, yards and yards of velvet, draped and pinned and knotted and tied, anchored with broaches, attached with scarves, pinned and arranged along her sizeable girth.

And the more colours the better. Crimson and vermilion and sunburst orange and flame red...